Walmart employee reports dog left in hot truck, loses job

Carla Cheney was in the parking lot of the Kemptville, Ontario, Walmart store waiting to start her shift on a hot summer day last week when she spotted a customer leaving his dog in his parked truck.

Former Walmart employee Carla Cheney and her own Chihuahua. (Photo credit: Chris Mikula/The Ottawa Citizen)

While the man first left the window to his vehicle open to allow his dog some air, Cheney tells CBC News the dog jumped out of the truck window twice, trying to follow his owner into the store. The customer then rolled the vehicle’s windows up almost completely, leaving one window open about an inch, before heading inside to shop.

As the mercury continued to climb higher and higher outside and the sun beamed down on the truck, Cheney says she became concerned for the dog’s safety in that dangerously hot vehicle. The dog, a furry Newfoundland, wouldn’t be able to stand the scorching heat for much longer, and as the crucial moments ticked by, Cheney knew she had to intervene.

“I said, ‘Is this really happening? I’m going to give him about five or ten minutes and then I’m going to call the police,” Cheney remembers.

Cheney, a dog owner herself, was shocked. “When it’s that hot, I wouldn’t even think of putting him in the car,” she tells the National Post of her Chihuahua.

When the dog’s owner didn’t emerge from the store, leaving his dog alone in the hot truck, another worried bystander took down the truck’s license plate number while Cheney called the police. The responding officer arrived on scene and went inside to locate the dog’s owner as Cheney nervously watched the panting Newfie. The owner eventually reemerged, but decided to approach the Walmart employee who’d reported him before pulling away in his vehicle.

“He pulled up to us and said, ‘Hello, ladies, how are you?’ And I said, ‘You shouldn’t leave your dog in the car,’” Cheney explains. “He told me it was none of my business and I said that that was fine, that if I saw him do it again I would just call the police next time. He said he was no longer going to be shopping at that Walmart and I said, ‘OK.’”

Last Tuesday’s incident wasn’t the first time Cheney had seen a Walmart customer leave their pet in their car with little ventilation on a hot day; just the week before she’d reported another instance to her manager, who told her there was nothing she could do about it.

After the man left, Cheney began her normal shift as usual. But later that afternoon, Cheney says she was called into her manager’s office. When she realized he was confronting her about the dog in the truck, she presented her side of the story and reiterated to him that if she ever witnessed something unsafe happening again she wouldn’t hesitate to do as she did and contact the police. What happened next is something Cheney says she never expected — she was let go.

“He told me then that I was terminated, he wanted my vest, my badge, and to clean out my locker and that I needed to leave,” Cheney remembers.

When she asked the manager why she was being fired, Cheney tells CTV News her manager said it was because she was rude to a customer.

According to the Ottawa Citizen, Carla Cheney is not the first employee at this Walmart store to have possibly been let go for reporting customers who leave their dogs in hot cars. Cheney’s former co-worker, Sean Dhaliwal, was loading soil into a car in the parking lot June 27 when he realized a frequent customer had left his dog in his vehicle. When Dhaliwal tried to speak to the customer about the dangers hot cars pose to a dog, the man became angry and aggressive. Shortly after the encounter, Dhaliwal, who had already put in his two weeks notice and was just finishing his last shifts, was told he wouldn’t be allowed to work his last week at the store.

“I was pretty upset,” Dhaliwal explains. “Being there two and a half years, I would have liked to finish my last week, say bye to everyone and all that.”

A week after losing her job, Cheney says her main concern is that future incidents will go unreported, putting dogs, other pets or even children at risk. “It’s on the news and we’re being told not to leave animals and children in cars,” the former Walmart employee says. “I thought I was doing the right thing.”

“Now I’m worried that other associates won’t say anything and they’ll be afraid that they’ll lose their job if they do say something,” she adds.

While Walmart Canada could not comment on the specifics of Cheney’s case, they did release a statement denying that their ex-employee was terminated for reporting a dog in distress.

“The associate in question was absolutely not let go for trying to help a dog in a locked car,” the statement reads. “The decision to dismiss an associate is one that we take extremely seriously and must follow a comprehensive process. […] as per our protocol, the store manager did speak to the customer in question about the dangers of leaving a dog in a hot car.”

The company also announced that it will be posting informational flyers around their stores urging customers not to leave their dogs unattended in hot vehicles.

Sources: Ottawa Citizen, CTV News, National Post, CBC News